Air pol­lu­tion from elec­tric gen­er­a­tion is respon­si­ble for more than 29,000 pre­ma­ture deaths annu­ally in PJM states, more than any other air pol­lu­tion source, accord­ing to a new study by researchers at the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Technology.

Annual Average Particulate Matter Polution from Electric Generation (Source: MIT)

(Source: MIT)

The study found that fine par­tic­u­lates (PM2.5) and ozone pol­lu­tion from elec­tric gen­er­a­tion caused 52,000 deaths in the con­ti­nen­tal U.S. annu­ally, sec­ond only to the 53,000 deaths attrib­uted to tailpipe emis­sions from autos. Within PJM states, auto pol­lu­tion was sec­ond, respon­si­ble for more than 23,000 pre­ma­ture deaths.

All told, includ­ing other emis­sion sources, such as indus­trial smoke­stacks, com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial heat­ing and cook­ing and marine and rail trans­porta­tion, air pol­lu­tion is respon­si­ble for 200,000 deaths annu­ally, the study found.

Coal-burning Ken­tucky, West Vir­ginia and Ohio had the high­est elec­tric gen­er­a­tion mor­tal­ity rates in PJM, with Kentucky’s 40.2 deaths per 100,000 pop­u­la­tion nearly dou­ble the rate for New Jer­sey (22.2). New Jer­sey has a higher over­all death rate, how­ever due to higher impacts from autos, ship­ping and com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial emissions.

Among cities, the Bal­ti­more met­ro­pol­i­tan area ranked worst, with an annual mor­tal­ity rate of 130 per 100,000 due to high emis­sions from power gen­er­a­tion, autos and industry.

Per­sons who die from an air pollution-related cause typ­i­cally have about a decade cut from their lifes­pan, accord­ing to Steven Bar­rett, an assis­tant pro­fes­sor of aero­nau­tics and astro­nau­tics who was one of the authors of the study.

The researchers found that the impact of auto emis­sions was high­est in densely pop­u­lated areas while power plants emis­sions, which are deposited at a higher alti­tude, were more dispersed.

Premature Deaths from Electric Generation Emissions (Source: MIT)

(Source: MIT)

The high­est elec­tric generation-related death rates were in the east-central U.S. and Mid­west, which researchers sug­gested was due to the burn­ing of coal with higher sul­fur con­tent than burned in the west.

The Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency esti­mates that 74 mil­lion peo­ple in the U.S. are exposed to lev­els of PM

2.5 higher than per­mit­ted by the Clean Air Act and that more than 131 mil­lion live in regions not com­pli­ant with ozone lim­its. The EPA com­puted the costs for the imple­men­ta­tion of the 1990 Clean Air Act to be about $65 bil­lion from 1990 to 2020, poten­tially avoid­ing 230,000 pre­ma­ture deaths in 2020.

The MIT researchers based their study on data from EPA’s National Emis­sions Inven­tory. The results were pub­lished in the jour­nal Atmos­pheric Envi­ron­ment.